If there's plants, I will probably kill them. A friend asked me to plant-sit last year, and you can imagine my relief when it turned out he himself had already killed the rosemary (he just hadn't thrown it out yet). It got so bad I got a cactus. I have not killed it (yet), I am careful about not over-feeding it, but it has hurt me many many times already. It feels like the cactus and I have am honest relationship.
But there has been some progress with regards to my black thumb. It would be way too soon to call it the emergence of a green thumb, but the plant-casualty-rate this has been low this year. I pilfered part of the indestructible rosemary bush from downstairs (it will grow back), and so far it hasn't died on me. These pictures are from a month or two ago, and it's summer, so everything has been growing like mad since then. I also received some plants from friends, and the tomatoes did bear fruit, as can be seen in previous posts, so I am really happy. My balcony looks, there's no other word for it, lush.
What has helped immensely is my choices of plants this season. I won't say all of those were fortunate, I got a Japanese wineberry, and while it is delicious and I will post about it in the future, it has hurt me even more than the cactus has. There were also some plants with an unknown (and one with mistaken) identity. Point is, except for a few tomatoes specifically meant for growing in flowering pots, I just got tough, woody, difficult to kill plants. I also sprinkled random seeds over the rest of the empty pots and waited to see where that got me. It worked 50/50: endless bee-flowers and weed-like plants, but almost no violets. Turns out it is nearly impossible to kill things like mint (I have 3 kinds of mint!) and raspberry bush-like plants. I'm considering getting small trees. And if you thin seedlings out enough, they do want to survive, so I just try and give them a fighting chance. Before this year I was under the mistaken impression that all plants are, by nature, suicidal, at least when they're near me. So far, none of this has resulted in lots and lots of food (12 tomatoes, a berry or 17, and more mint then I know what to do with). But I also haven't killed any of the bushes yet. So that's progress.
My cats have (of course) taken a shine to the balcony. As long as you keep sure there's plants in the pot, they will not poop in them. They're very happy with the balcony because they can be outside no matter how bad the rain is. They usually come back in smelling of green and rain and earth and dust (or just dust when it's very hot and dry weather and they use the balcony for shade) and seem very happy. They sometimes leave paw prints in my room and in the bath. They even let me have breakfast with them on the balcony when they're in a good mood. No seriously, it's really nice to just sit with them on the balcony and enjoy the illusion that I am surrounded by green and nature and water and furry creatures and bees (which I am, but it's mainly cars and a gigantic polluting road on the other side of the water).
I will add a completely gratuitous cat-comic for your amusement. I was trying to take Betty's picture because she looked very regal when this happened. It is not supposed to happen and I need to find a solution because she's not allowed on the balcony railing. The upstairs neighbours' cat tried to walk on it, but then she jumped over and died. It was quite horrifying, and in this case I'd better be safe then sorry. But the comic does make for a nice look into inter-cat relationships in our household.
October 7th, 2014
One of the very first cookbooks I got (for Sinterklaas I believe) was the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream & Desserts book. It is fun to read and it inspired a really delicious variation on the New York Chocolate Fudge Chunk years later, based on the date-chocolate ice cream base. We all thought it was way tastier than the store bought version, although my sister wasn't a fan of the chunks. And I don't want to sound like a complete health-nut, because the main point is that it tastes quite similar yet better and is free of cow-torture, but it is so much healthier it's not even funny anymore. It's also relatively easy to make if you have a blender and an ice cream maker or one of these, so no-one has an excuse to buy Ben & Jerry's ever again. They are not the ethical lovely hippy company the omnipresent ads want you to believe (case in point: omnipresent ads). The Ben & Jerry's book is not vegan at all (they insist on extra milk and egg in everything, even sorbets), and it's very very American, so I'd only buy it if you desperately want to recreate the Ben & Jerry's originals and are game for some serious recipe alterations. Google might help you out quicker though, without you having to veganize anything.
I also got two new ice cream books this summer. And one e-book about popsicles. So far, they have all been a hit. Especially Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches, that one is amazing. I have to admit to tweaking the recipes quite a bit, using different sweeteners, and a lot less sugar in the cookies. I find the original terribly sweet, but that might be a personal thing. They are addictive though. The absolute favorite? Chai spiced ice cream (with or without sandwiches). I made the chai with some earl grey and classic yogi tea (it was the closest thing to chai we had around the house), and may have replaced the soy milk with coconut. I used Vegan Secret Supper's method of sweetening the ice cream with rice syrup and agave (and I added a bit of maple just because). They were so good that I ate 4 sandwiches in one day. And then I regretted it, but only a little bit. The next week we made the ice cream again for a BBQ, where it was a huge hit. I am still working on a neapolitan brownie sandwich, but we will get there.
Vegan Ice Cream is a delightful book, lots of different and varying recipes, three including durian. I have tried durian once, and I find it revolting, like garlic-poop-pineapple with a very persistent aftertaste and horrific smell. I never was one for smelly cheeses and the like, not before going vegan, not now. Don't get me started on pied de mouton. But the book is really nice. It has sauces, it has popsicles, different ice cream bases, some raw ice creams for those of you who care about that, and ice cream with hot pepper! <3
Oh, and I got a popsicle e-book called Purely Pops that's really nice. I didn't have a popsicle book yet, although Smitten Kitchen always has great ones, and it's not that difficult to pour ice cream bases into moulds, or to just use sweetened smoothies or juices. Nothing could be easier. I know it's a bit late, but if you have a hot autumn where you are (or your hemisphere is slowly starting spring or you are somewhere where there is no four seasons but there is warmth), I'd definitely recommend Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches. And the popsicle book is affordable and has really nice cream bases so go for it if you want to make new, different, inventive popsicles.
The sandwiches pictured are the chai-spiced, a raspberry-lemon shortbred-combo, and tiramisu. The raspberry ice cream was bad. As you can see from the picture, the structure was very grainy, but that's because I used "instant" almond milk and did not use enough almond butter. To be on the safe side, I'd suggest using the regular method of almond milk: 1 cup almonds to 3 water. I sometimes use 2 cups water if I want really rich ice cream. It's really worth it for the taste. When you need some 1/4th cup of milk for a cookie recipe in a pinch, sure, use "instant". But don't when your nut-milk is the base of the entire recipe. I made the same stupid mistake with yoghurt once. It was horrible. Oh, and there was the tiramisu ice cream sandwich. That recipe needed some tweaking as well, the soaking of the top cookie didn't do the texture any favours (blechch), so I suggest adding some espresso powder or yannoh-powder to the tofu-based ice cream instead. That ice cream is delicious! I made it with almond milk instead of hemp, and it worked really well. And do dust the cookies with the cocoa-powder, that gives them a really lovely taste and makes it surprisingly tiramisu-y. Now all you need is a tiny glass of liqueur to go with it.
I should probably mention that my mum has The Vegan Scoop and it's not a big hit. I am not a huge soy milk fan. It could also be because I prefer the Italian gelato to the American "ice cream" (according to a few of the ice cream books, there is a distinct difference). The Ciao Bella Gelato & Sorbeto book is also non-vegan, but very easily veganized with a rudimentary understanding of ice cream bases. And the sorbeto part is already vegan of course. Hanna Kaminsky recommended it years ago, that's how I found it, so you can read her review. I completely agree, although be warned that chocolate sorbet is so intensely chocolate-y that you may make a face. I did. It was one of those things where you don't know if you absolutely love it, or that you find it too overwhelming to enjoy. Their granita-recipes and tips on flavour-combinations are great as well.
September 29th, 2014
First, I'll give you a recipe. Then I'll give you some tips. We got the Zoku Shake-maker thing. We already had the popsicle maker, and we like that one a lot! The shake-maker is also rather nifty. I wouldn't call what it makes granita or shake, it is more of an awkward ice cream, but it is really delicious. It's not the Magimix Turbine à Glace, but it is better than the motorized 350 euro costing one we had before the Turbine, but that we had to return because it was so loud we heard it when we put it out on the balcony. So that's not bad for a 15 euro gizmo that works without electricity. Although a friend recently informed me the price has gone up to 25 euros :(. So far, it has handled every ice cream batter we've throw at it admirably, but my favorite recipe is rather straightforward.
Get a cup. Fill it 2/3 with fruit (I used frozen cherries and strawberries), add a splash of agave nectar and a tablespoon of almond butter. Add water until the fruit is covered. Add a handful of mint if desired, and sweeten with stevia to taste. Blend this all up, and add to the Zoku together with either a handful of chocolate chips, or some nuts, or cookie crumbs, or toasted coconut flakes. Do the stirring thing. Then put on a movie and enjoy. You can make this as healthy as you'd like. The texture improves remarkably with the added agave, but you can sweeten it the rest of the way with stevia if you'd like. I have done this with my morning smoothie, but I'd rather use the sweeter one. The texture is really depressing when you use unsweetened smoothie with chia seeds and kale...
Now for a movie-tip: if you like the 80's, intercultural relationships, skinheads seeing the error of their ways and embracing old "friendships", a young Daniel Day Lewis (& an equally gorgeous Gordon Warnecke), sex involving bubbly wine, tight jeans and squatters (I happen to have a soft spot for every one of those), you should watch "My Beautiful Launderette". I think my dad recommended it a few years ago. I won't say it's a fun movie, it is a bit strange with a fuckload of dark shit happening in the not-so-fortunate parts of society during Thatcher (or: dôh). But I repeat, Daniel Day Lewis, young! With champagne! If you then need a bit of a laugh, because you are both deeply saddened and hugely excited from watching Laundrette, you should read "Al Dente" by David Winner. It's so inexpensive it's almost free, but it's also really interesting. Who knew the Ancient Romans were the first designer-water drinkers? It might have not been bottled, but it was branded and hyped up. For real!
Everything is going really well here! I've started the pre-master, and realised I should have started this study years ago because it's both challenging and fun. Shame on you, unobservant teachers at arts college that said theatre science really wouldn't be for me and that I should never try because I'd be miserable and uninterested in it, shame on you. Because it turns out that other people have already thought very hard about the things I have also thought very hard about, and our conclusions are similar. Theirs are just formed by much more experience and, to use the technical challenge, science-y knowledge, but I can get there if I work hard! Also, all of the lecturers are incredible examples of awesome, and together with Batman, Yoko Ono, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Song A Day Man who made a feminist auto-tune, Emma Watson and Naomi Wolf (actually there are more, both male and female, and my mum and dad, but then the list would be endless), at least two of them are my new feminist heroes! I also went to a few really good concerts and plays, and there's lots more to come. It might go quiet in a few weeks, but I promise I am trying to keep up! Because there are already undiscussed shoes, new kinds of feminist outrage, horribly sexist but still super fun movies and yet more nail polish (along with some tips on how you can make it last for-e-ver) to write about!
September 24th, 2014
Remember I told you about the friend who got me Daiya? I may have used it in everything. It turns out I am not a fan of the cheddar slices. It tastes too processed, a lot like those completely processed slices individually wrapped in plastic that you can get at the supermarket and that I never liked before I went vegan. But the mozzarella is a lot milder and I don't think people really notice the difference between this and what's on regular frozen pizzas. Anyway, it is really good so I put it on everything. I put it on a hummus-pesto-hybrid made from fresh green peas, pine nuts and mint. It was really good.
A little bit of sriracha gave it more of a kick, which I like. I am the only one in our household who likes the kick, so the sriracha and hot sauce lasts forever. The look of melty Daiya is different to melty dairy-cheese. This could be because I don't heat it high enough. I just find that it never really loses the shape of the shreds, even though it is melty and stretchy. But I know that you of the American blogosphere have heard more, more than enough about Daiya. You, for some incomprehensible reason, find Cheezly irresistible and exotic and marvelous.
Having had a chance to try Teese, Sheese, aforementioned Cheezly, Tofutti, Violife, Wilmersburger and Daiya, and some tofu-feta-goat-cheese thing from a Berlin health food store that was so good I had three blocks of it in 5 days, I can say that some of those have their use. I recommend you completely ignore the first three. They've ruined otherwise perfectly cheeselessly delicious meals for me. Tofutti slices are doable, but their cream cheese is perfect, exactly that same fatty, little bit bland, rich weird creamy thing that is regular cream cheese, with not a hint of soybean. Violife is quite similar to what you can get in Dutch supermarkets pre-sliced in packets, and the same goes for Wilmersburger. Quite nice, not a very outspoken taste, not melty, but good on a slice of bread, tastes exactly as much of plastic and nothing as supermarket cheese made from dairy does. I quite liked the Violife one with herbs, because that did have a taste that reminded me faintly of a nettle-cheese I at some point had a pregan obsession with. There was green bits in there, eating it was a nostalgic experience. Daiya is the only one of these that melts even somewhat realistically and the mozzarella (though it taste more like "all purpose cheese" to me, especially compared to the home made stuff) is good with almost anything. When I get back to Berlin, I will try and find the feta-chèvre-tofu again and then I'll let you know. Because it's the healthiest of these by far and it was super tasty, mainly because it didn't try too hard to be dairy cheese. I will also be taking ridiculous amounts of it back to the Netherlands with me if I ever find it again.
Right, my initial point of this post was that chili is really tasty with a handful of Daiya, and I made a discovery: they have smoked paprika powder at a store just a short bike ride away. If you're visiting the Netherlands and see a Dille & Kamille (translation: Dill & Chamomile) you should check it out, I sometimes just go there to be surrounded by pretty cookery-items. I had been looking for smoked paprika for the longest time and there it suddenly was, next to the cash register. It is the best thing ever to have happened to both chili and BBQ. And sauces. And tomato soups. And salads that need a bit of heat or smoke. And tofu rubs. I've found the sweet variety there as well, so now I put it in almost everything. It's like a really low-budget version of liquid smoke.
As you can see, my mum's cooking course is really paying off. The structure of her breads has improved drastically. I am learning from a distance, and have now learned to make the best pasta I've had in my life so far. Penne all' arrabbiata is something new, but it's a kind of spicy even my family enjoys on occasion. And you can make it as spicy and with as much vegetables as you want. It takes a maximum of 20 minutes? 30 if I am very precise and finicky about it. So you should try it. I used a Jamie Oliver recipe (without dead anchovies of course), because his method of cooking is roughly similar to that of the course. You cook your pasta until just south of al dente (for me, with spaghetti that's probably 5 minutes, 6 with a bigger pasta) and then cook it the rest of the way with a cup of cooking water added to the sauce (takes me 3 minutes usually). It makes for a really nice bite and a sauce that actually sticks to your pasta without clumping or the need for olive oil to prevent said clumping. Nigella Lawson uses the same method. It's so simple and so much better that I don't know why we didn't start cooking pasta like this years ago!
September 16th, 2014
Bananas were apparently in the air. Because Hipsterfood, the tumblr by the people behind the previously mentioned and raved about Chickpea Magazine, had some great and specific tips on banana soft-serve that would complement my suggestions for the ice cream. So you should definitely check that out.
I am currently taking care of the fat cat. Some of her teeth had to be taken out because she was super-smelly and it looked bad. The doctor said we weren't too late, no irreversible damage. Four teeth were pulled because they were mushy. I always thought stuff like that was nonsense, it's a cat, it needs neither dentist nor pedicure. But it got so smelly that when she yawned you wanted to leave the room, and it made her coat stink. I can't for the life of me get her the take the antibiotics. It is impossible to put a pill inside of the cat without her coughing it back up. It usually means that we both hate each other for a few days and I have to heal from scratches and she from psychological trauma. Luckily I was able to give her the liquid painkiller and we put something in her water that should also help, and I checked the temperature of her jaw and she is still fine and almost back to her old self. She's still a bit queasy sometimes. But she smells fine now, no longer like death and fish, but clean and fluffy, just like the other cat.
I also built the cats some stairs, because they kept thundering down the wall and land with a thud on the concrete and that looked really painful! They learned how to use it after some "encouragement" (of me pushing them up the little stairs), and have been doing so since the third day after stair-construction. We have nosey neighbors, they stare at us and the things happening in the neighborhood disapprovingly either from behind the curtain of from the second floor the entire fucking day (please shoot me if I ever become that kind or sour, depressed pensionado), it is well and truly unpleasant. But the cats have taken to sitting on the top of the stairs and staring back. This feels like a happy form of poetic justice, one that just happens without any effort and is actually kind of adorable.
September 9th, 2014
I often wonder if I antropomorphise my cats too much. I guess it won't hurt them if I think of them as tiny furry humans, hell, they probably think of me as a huge relatively clumsy cat. At least that's what the book suggests. But I also talk to them an awful lot and I feel like they respond (they are quite vocal in their responding mews and those for attention), and it's a bit like how I used to talk to my teddy bear all the time, but as though he's more stubborn and preoccupied with trying to take the ergonomic desk-chair from me because it is the best place for sleep (and work).
What finally convinced me that we (even though they are cats and I am human and we have to respect each others differences) are quite similar creatures, is Captain James Tiberius Kirk (the original). I am more a TNG and Voyager fan (with a huge Garak-weakness), and you can wake me up for Commander Tucker any time of night. I am not so much a fan of TOS because it is difficult not to laugh or fall asleep because of the very lengthy pauses and stage-like over-acting common in the 60's. But then there's Kirk (and Nichelle Nichols, but let's save descriptions of her brilliance for a future post). Don't get me wrong, it is completely logical that Spock became the sex symbol. But I react to Kirk the way my cats react to butterflies. Whatever I'm doing, if there is Kirk, I will become pre-occupied, somewhat nervous and unusually giggly (they sort of hiccup/bark at birds and flying creatures, not giggle). And then I will stare at it transfixed. I can't say that I start batting at the computer screen, but I cover my mouth with my hands every now and again in excitement. And then they stare at me like I stare at them when they are catching butterflies. Although they're mostly annoyed that I dare use their bed for such mundane activities as watching TV or movies, reading books or, god forbid, sleeping. It is no longer their bed, but that's only because the three of us have developed a communal sleeping pattern.
To go with the Kirk and aloof cats, you should probably make banana-sorbet. There's so many recipes on the internet that you hardly need my extra input, but I should say that I usually add some extra maple syrup to the sour cherries, and have added chocolate chips on occasion. It was really good. It's not "just like ice cream, yum" (Kristina really gets on my nerves), but it is very fast and an excellent snack on those nights when you just want to watch movies and be emotional about it. There will be different ice cream snacks soon, it has been a hot summer, but this one will do in a pinch! Also, huge coconut flakes are my new favorite thing. I bought them to try out coconut bacon, but I haven't gotten around to it yet because they are so tasty when you toast them and put them in the ice cream. Oh, and always add vanilla. It makes the sorbets go from "quite good and fruity" to "what is this ambrosia (sort of)".
I'll leave you with something only mildly Star Trek related: Shatner does Common People. Thank you, popular culture, for making this possible. Maybe next time we will discuss the ins and outs of Cardassian politics, or the Pulp biography I'm reading. I think we can safely say that both my friends and parents are happy that I have you, unknown audience, to share all of this with, because none of them seem to share my fascination with Star Trek, sci-fi in general, or the way women are portrayed vs. men in Pulp songs.
September 4th, 2014
Today I will be discussing two cookbooks that actually fell prey to their blog's brilliance (and one that didn't). Let me start with one of the first vegan books I bought, because it was one of the first vegan blogs I ever stumbled upon (just googling "vegan blog"): Vegan Yum Yum. I actually (unsuccessfully, alas) tried to seduce someone with her recipe for cinnamon buns once. The buns can't be faulted for my bad choices. And don't get me wrong, Lolo's cookbook is great, inventive recipes, lots of them, lovely pictures, very comprehensive. A pocket-version without the helpful general directions and background info of Veganomicon. She also taught me a lot of food photography tips and tricks, so you can partially blame her for my relentlessly keeping up the iphone snapshots against a painfully blue deck table and/or chair. But the cookbook also has lots of schmancy picknick and sandwich and dinner-party stuff and really nice pancakes. A nice combination of staples and food for a special occasion. Only point is that her blog probably has even more, even better recipes! The cinnabons are on the blog, not in the book, so there you go. And that's where we come to Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking.
The cinnamon rolls are in the book this time. They're gluten-free yeast-free cinnamon buns, does it get much better than that? Ok, I haven't had time to bake them yet, but Cara's track record is excellent, so I don't doubt for a second that this recipe will be a resounding success. Anyway, the cookbook is nice and has more tips on replacing gluten and eggs then The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions did. But then her blog Fork and Beans has those tips as well. And the book is just desserts, her blog has everything. And I am more of a savory person. I will bake until I'm blue in the face, but in the end potato chips are my weakness, not vanilla cake with frosting. I will gladly leave all of the cakes and frostings alone for just one fatty salty crispy crunchy nibble. In short, even though I think it's really nice to support Cara, I also feel the book is overshadowed by the amazing stuff she makes on her blog.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is on the other end of the spectrum. And looking at Deb's blog, you might not guess there's much more to cook and bake and write about. But there is! And the cookbook has some really nice overviews, tips for what to serve when and store how, all of those things. How she ended up with a recipe, why it works, what makes it worth making. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook gave me some never before seen original (egg- dairy- and dead-animal-heavy) recipes that just keep working for me no matter how I veganize them. Even more so than her blog. There are some vegetarian recipes, Deb was a vegetarian at some point. And even though I might be morally opposed to the killing of defenseless chicken, I will wholeheartedly recommend this book to you (along with the page on the Smitten Kitchen blog with everything labeled vegan). There's quite a few recipes in the book and on the blog that just don't particularly appeal to me, but Deb is brilliant when it comes to flavor combo's, presentation, party planning and ideas for dates (as if I ever have dates, hah). Deb announced a new book recently, and I'll surely get that when it comes out. I can only hope there's a vegetarian (or perhaps vegan?) chapter in her second book as well, and I will happily keep marinating seitan and tofu in place of the dead flesh!
So in conclusion: all three of the books probably add something to the information on the blogs that they sprung from, but in different amounts. If you're looking for a good starting point to vegan food in general, Vegan Yum Yum is an nice place to start. If you are a lover of food and stories about Deb's husband's Russian family, and don't mind some veganizing, I would go for that one because it is the best one out of the three. But if you have a kid that's gluten-intolerant I'd know what I'd buy if I ever needed to give treats to their class or something. And then I'd probably bake those cinnamon buns.
On a helpful gluten-free sidenote: millet flour has a very distinctive taste, and I think I might avoid it from now on. It's not that I am against said taste in every situation, it's just that I am not fond of it in my baked goods. It was something my mum and I discovered (with an awkward giggle) at about the same time we bit into a millet-flour-based bagel. And then I had to think about Mitchell & Webb.
August 26th, 2014
I recently bought some nail polish because I decided to maybe try my hand at performing again, and try to recapture some of the magnificence that was Horseboy. And to be Horseboy or a slightly shifty somewhat genderless 80's alter ego, one needs nail polish. A day later Vegan Cuts made a video about their summer nail polish box. In it they discussed a bottle by Black Sheep Nail Lacquer. I checked out all of the brands in the video, but as soon as I found Black Sheep, I knew I'd found my kind of polish. So I emailed Erin (who owns Black Sheep and makes all of the polishes) to ask about the colors of her chemical-light completely vegan product! We both love Zelda. I saw she also has tiny bottles (I don't use enough nail polish for the performances to ever finish a big bottle), and she was able to send me some along with a base coat and super shiny topcoat. There's also a matte topcoat, a holographic one and a thermal one. But I'd definitely recommend the super shiny, it is well and truly super shiny and beautiful. Anyway, Erin informed me that she could send 6 bottles for 10 dollars shipping, so I asked for 3 colors I liked, a base coat, a top coat, and a surprise. Isn't that the nicest thing? That you know the person who makes your nail polish and she will send you a surprise? I asked her to send something that wasn't red or more pink, because I am not a big fan of the classics, and Horseboy is a boy, so he needs masculine polish.
Ok, on to the review of the actual lacquer. Otherwise this post will just be me raving about Erin, and even though that's fun, it might not be very helpful to you, 12 readers who probably don't care about nail polish. Don't judge a book by my swatches. I tried to capture it on camera, but the picture doesn't do it justice. The Jaw Breaker is a bit pink when you use it by itself, but still absolutely delightful. I used it with every other lacquer on the left of each nail as you can see, and it is gorgeous combined with the deep purple (and the other ones, but especially the purple). Suddenly it's not just pink, but the green glitter pops out :). As for the Black Sheep color, it's a deep black with a hint of silver, but still quite subtle. The orange-purple duo chrome Dark Knight might be the loveliest nail polish I have ever seen, and Erin included an almost grey purple-silver polish with tiny jade glitter in there as the surprise. It's only because I love the purple one so much that this isn't the prettiest nail polish I've ever seen, but OMG those green glitters in there! It matches perfectly with the other three. For those of you not trying to be Adam Ant: Erin has all of the colors, from the most girly pink and vampy 50's red to the scariest Star Trek purple-green. And more if you ask her nicely, really, just contact her and she has stuff you couldn't dream up in your wildest dreams.
Now you guys know I'm a fan of the hyperbole, but I can't begin to tell you how nice it is to buy stuff from a person with a vision and a passion for making peoples nails shiny instead of just some faceless company called China Glaze. They are cool too, but they're no Black Sheep. Also, you will need to find some (vegan) polish remover, and so far I have not been successful, but I still have some Zoya (some of their stuff is vegan) left from last year and at least it smells good? So I will keep using that. Ok, to wrap this up: the polish is relatively affordable, especially compared to Zoya! I think the price is super reasonable, especially when you consider the handmade part. And I think it's so much nicer to have tiny bottles with more different colors, instead of big ones that you can never finish. You need about two or three thin coats to make it work, and it goes on quite well. It's a little bit fiddly, but putting paint on your nails with a tiny brush is always fiddly. The smell is ok, just like the China Glaze and Zoya polishes. It just smells like nail polish, and will stop smelling after about a day. You'd smell better without it on your hands, but then your nails would not be gorgeous and sparkly, and you know you want to be gorgeous and sparkly and wearing red fake leather pants with a crop top. You know you do!
PS. I went to see the Pet Shop Boys last week. It was repulsively expensive, but it's also some of the best money I've ever spent. What it lacked in spontaneity it more than made up for in excellence, joy and stage design. I have never seen such amazing lighting design, nor such striking costumes! Both the dancers and the almost theatrical use of music with images deserve a mention as well. Did I mention they are excellent live? And the audience was also super nice and enthusiastic, it was no problem at all to be there by myself and I actually met an acquaintance there and that was fun. I usually feel a bit awkward at concerts, but a very tall woman and her equally tall boyfriend actually made sure my 5 ft could stand in front of them and watch as well as dance! So if you ever get the chance: go see them IRL. They are every bit as good as you'd expect from their reputation. The only concert I've seen that was better so far, was Iggy Pop on Lowlands, with Thomas Azier as a close third. And oh, those cow-skull-80's-hair-band-masks, they are a brilliant work of art, even better live :). Also, they played Rent, Thursday, It's a Sin and Miracles. The only way they could've made it better, is if they'd have played Flamboyant. But I'm not complaining. I am still on a cattle-skull-induced high! Just as I left I heard a guy remarking to his boyfriend: "They played our song, just like nine years ago when we met". That is the cutest thing I've ever heard anyone say at a concert!
August 18th, 2014
The very first oops is forgetting to post this. I never hit publish. It has been sitting in the "drafts" inbox for 7 weeks now? So here goes, belatedly, but still. We now know it takes roughly three and a half weeks for an eyebrow to grow back.
At some point (instead of buying a shirt with 50 Cent as a gorgeous specimen of over-trained man-meat on the front) I decided to attempt a mindfuck by adopting the stripe-y shaved eyebrow thing in the retro-manner of Vanilla Ice (or indeed the manner of 50 Cent). In a non-gender-normative overthought hipster kind of way. I have recently taken to wearing ridiculous heels with very big sweaters and very hairy everything else. Actually, only the heels are new, and the hairy-part is because I refuse to apologize for it any longer. I am woman hear me roar! With the eyebrows, I thought it'd be perfect because a 5 ft feminist woman looking like a misogynist rapper, that's hilarious. And if anyone has the dark, contrasting, and ample eyebrows for it, it would be me. However, it turns out these shaved stripes require a very experienced or expensive stylist or just someone with a more precise trimmer than the one I have. Because I am currently missing 1/4th of an eyebrow. No amount of powder will cover it up. I look like a mutant Vulcan-human hybrid, but in a bad way. How long does it take for eyebrows to grow back?
Second oops is this instant popcorn thing. It is very boring and tasteless, whilst still being almost as fat and unhealthy as deep-fried potato crisps. The next time, I will just take the crisps. I saw it, for only half a euro, but not only is that still massively more expensive than making it yourself from kernels, it is also way less delicious. It tastes of styrofoam, whilst freshly popped popcorn popped in a layer of olive oil is fragrant, healthier and you can season it yourself (with smoked paprika! or dill, or black pepper, or attempt something vaguely cheesy, etcetera). I dislike microwaves unless used to defrost or on Mary Berry's instruction with regards to lemons. Even chocolate won't melt in them properly! And this popcorny-stuff was gross. Never buy it, it is evil (and has yucky oil).
Now for the yay-part. I am afraid I have to agree with Dylan Moran: yes, that is exactly how I feel about shoes. I'm not sure if I agree with the rest of his statement, men don't strike me as overly sentimental either, but as far as it concerns me and shoes, it is true, even if it is autosexist (is that a word?). Yes, I know, I am a bad, bad unethical consumer, but a bad unethical consumer who's grown 5 inches instantly. I still look like a recently born giraffe that fell all the way down and has trouble getting up (or in and out of chairs), but in a good way. Proud, colourful, still somewhat wobbly, but not at all unattractive. Also, for men who don't understand heels, I somewhat sympathise, I used to have the same thing, and still have it more days than not. But maybe you should just try it. It's like Eddie Izzard says: equal clothing rights for all. Also, there's something about men in heels when done right that you just can't argue with, be it in classic or more modern incarnations. I advise anyone still unconvinced to look at Chiwetel Ejiofor in heels. Just, wow! Maybe not a look ányone can pull of, but more should try. Well, that was all very off-topic. If nothing else, you now know not to attempt a 50-cent-vanilla-ice-look on your own.
August 10th, 2014
An American-Dutch friend promised to hook me up with some Daiya, and when someone can get me Daiya, I try to be generous. Because it is the most delicious cheese in existence (Cheezly is seriously foul, and though Tofutti is not unpleasant, Daiya is the only one of which I can't make a better replica at home). There is no cruelty involved in making it and it is very very cruel that it is not widely available. I suspect that if it were freely available in the Netherlands at roughly the same price as dairy cheese, then lots of health-conscious folk (or creepy dieters) would switch because it tastes so good, and all the vegans would be in heaven. But I had to try and make something Daiya-worthy to give in return, and so I found this and decided to make a variation on a theme. My friend is a peanut butter aficionado. I started out planning to make it exactly the same, but halfway through the recipe (I was baking with my sister and a friend of ours) we fell back on good old Chocolate Mousse Pie from Vegan Pie in the Sky. And it took some (2 tsp) cornstarch to make the coconut-peanutbutter-topping work. My coconut milk never produces decent whipped cream even though it isn't homogenized, and I don't know why it doesn't. And then it all looked too good not to marble. I am really pleased with the end-result, and the tiny heart inside of a bigger heart was a welcome surprise. I only recently started marbling all of the pudding and mousse cakes. I never knew it could make pies look so good!
The cake was better than I thought it would be, and not nearly as heavy as I suspected. I also tweaked the crust a bit to make it less fat (only 6 tbsp of oil, and a little bit of soy milk), and it was still ok. It would work wonders with some kind of caramel filling or anything mocha. Banoffee and dulche de leche both seem excellent candidates. However, the next day, once it got soggy, it was really bad. And it didn't hold a candle to the shortbread-crust anyway. If I may suggest something: use the (chocolate) shortbread crust. It's the best crust I've ever made, easier than most, only a few pies don't go well with it. I wouldn't use it for a cheesecake, a cookie-crust is better for that, and I sometimes use the almond crust for creamy fruit-pies or raw pie-filling (I do bake the crust, because I found I dislike raw pie crusts or the time they take to dehydrate). But for the rest of them, unless you're making a savory tart, I'd almost always recommend a shortbread crust. You can keep one frozen for emergencies, and use it whenever you need it. It saves time and effort. For this one I think you could equally well use a cookie-crust with an extra pinch of salt, or the chocolate shortbread crust and then add some coarse sea salt to the topping. If you are into salty-sweet combinations.
What more did I want to discuss. Right, theatre and television.
Firstly, I saw the best Hamlet I've seen in my life so far. It made me realize how completely irrelevant the sex of an actor can be with regards to the characters gender. And how seeming contradictions there can even enhance a performance. I am still not completely sure what to think of the play, but it stayed with me, I've never seen a more gripping and current Hamlet (even though both the filmed one with David Tennant and the performance I saw by Oostpool were fantastic), and if it is not the best play I ever saw, it is a close second or third. A bit like seeing the recent "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" by Oostpool. You suddenly remember why it will always be worth it to keep "doing" the classics. And for those of you not in the Netherlands, I suggest you go to Digital Theatre right now and watch Much Ado About Nothing. I very much enjoyed all 2 and a half hours of it, and am planning to rent the Swan Lake next! It is wonderful to be able to sit in bed with your iPad and watch a performance you could never have visited in person. It's not nearly the same experience, but it is amazing and I think a very good development in theatre. This should happen with the amazing obscure stuff that nobody gets to see as well!
Having finished Father Brown, I decided to start on Death in Paradise. I am so sad that is now finished as well. I have a special weak spot for Detective Sergeant Fidel Best, not in the last place because of his name, and more importantly: he is absurdly handsome. Like a young Colin Firth, but with a more seductive accent and a moustache! Even when he wears the ridiculous policeman's hat. And I wish more policemen had the attitude of Dwayne, who actually owns an "undercover shirt". As in: "Hey Dwayne, I thought you were doing surveillance, you are wearing your undercover shirt." The stories are often hilarious, and most of the murder-mysteries have suprisising and ingenious solutions. The Miss-Marple-gathering-everyone-together-end-scene is a hoot, and I think Utrecht needs a bar like Catherines. Saving the best for last: I can only aspire to be as cool a person as Sergeant Camille Bordey. Whatever was lost by not having Lady Felicia, was gained tenfold by having a Sergeant Borday. Sergeant beats Lady any day! Did I mention there is a pet lizard?
August 3rd, 2014